Blog Style Scoring Methods

The blog styles scores and graphs were generated by surveying each blog and reviewing the six most recent blog posts or articles.  The base survey was conducted in April and May of 2017. An additional survey adding about 100 new blogs was conducted in June/July 2017.    That’s right, I visited each and every one of these blogs and read at least six articles from each one (i.e., something like 6600 articles).  Basically, I am an early retiree with way too much time on my hands.  Also, I intend to continue to re-survey about a 100 sites per month on a rolling basis to track how bloggers’ style and topics content shifts over time.

Why six articles? – At first I tried reading various numbers of articles, but usually never more than about ten.  I found through this iterative process that six articles almost always gave me a pretty good sense of the style and tone of the author as well as an indication of how much that style could change across articles.  I also found that many blogs are set up with five posts on the first page, so reading six posts often got me on to the second page where I could see whether the next article titles suddenly veered into completely different territory.  On a random but regular basis, I read 10 articles instead of six and considered whether my style ratings would have substantially changed.  I conducted this quality control check a sufficient number of times that I satisfied myself I was reasonably characterizing blogs based on six articles.  I plan to continue these quality control checks as I add and re-survey new sites in the future.

Why the most recent articles?  – Although many of these blogs have been around for years and have a substantial body of work, there seems to be a general interest by readers in receiving regularly and recently generated content.  So, although the past opus of any blogger is important, I thought it was in the best interest of the reader to focus on the content they would find if they went to the blog today, not three years in the past.

Couldn’t a blog’s style change over time?  Absolutely true.  If someone’s next six posts are completely different from the most recent six posts that I reviewed, then the blog style will in fact be substantially different from the style score I gave it.   That is why I intend to update these reviews on a rolling basis.

Are the style scores objective? – I don’t think any review of a nuanced concept like a writer’s style can be entirely objective.  We accept the subjectivity of things like book reviews all the time, and this review is intended in a similar vein.  That said, I would contend the more important question here is: Are the styles scores useful?  I would whole-heatedly argue these style scores will help readers find the kind of writers they like.  If you doubt this, try reading four blogs, each of which is clearly in one of the four style quadrants.   I think you will quickly find a palpable difference in “the feel” generated by each major style.

Are the style scores subjective? – To some degree yes, as I mentioned above.  But these scores are not entirely subjective and unique to my preferences.  Quite the opposite.  I think this style system is repeatable (for the most part) by a second person.  And an independent assessment would lead to the same basic style designations for each blog, perhaps with some differences for blogs that don’t tend strongly to anyone style.  More importantly, this is not a review of the “best” or “worst” blogs based on some subjective set of personal preferences in my head.  I am specifically not trying to tell you what is “good” or “bad” about any of these blogs.  And certainly no one paid me or otherwise enticed me to say their blog had “awesome” content.  The point here is to be objective enough that a reader can discover lesser known blogs that might fit their personal preferences, not for me to lead readers to my “favorite” or “best” blogs.

How did you decide which blogs to read? – I started with the outstanding personal finance bloggers directory maintained at Rockstar Finance.   Since then I have added about a 150 blogs that I have found various ways (social media, web searches, etc.).  Through cross checking, I determined that many of these new additions are not included in the Rockstar Finance directory.  In addition, I have removed about two dozen blogs originating from the Rockstar Finance directory because the links are broken, lead to blank pages, etc.  Unlike the Rockstar Finance directory, I am not archiving any sites due to inactivity.  I am only removing sites that no longer exist or contain no personal finance information anymore.

How is this different from the Rockstar Finance directory at all? – Don’t get me wrong, I think the Rockstar Finance directory is a fantastic information tool, but I felt a few things were missing to really guide readers to the types of blogs they might like to read.  One of the chief things I am interested in (and I think may readers are interested in) is a sense of a bloggers style, tone, or voice.  The rest of this guide tries to home in on a few other factors that might also help guide readers to the blogs that meet their particular needs and wants.

A few other details to note:

  • I did not listen to podcasts, watch videos or click through slide shows, because this would have been too time consuming.  I did my best to understand the content of such posts based on titles and summary transcripts that were often provided.
  • This guide is confined to only blogs with English as the primary language.  Online translators basically suck, and I don’t speak any other language sufficiently to go outside the English-speaking world.  This excludes a number of additional sites that are present in the Rockstar Finance directory.
  • Sites that did not have any discernible dated material may have been excluded.  Again, I was looking for recent content, which seems to be what most readers want.
  • I did not adjust style scores for blogs that contained mostly advertisements or affiliate posts that sounded like blatant advertisements.  However, if a site was nothing that but bald-faced advertisements, I did not rate it as highly “rationale”, for reasons which are hopefully obvious.
  • This is a review of “personal finance” blogs.  Accordingly, if blogs contained mostly posts on non-finance topics, I gave these a higher “experiential” score.  While information (e.g., vacation pictures) may have been presented, in these cases, it was not clearly “finance” information.  I was very generous in interpreting things as related to finance.  So, if a post contained almost nothing but vacation selfies, but still mentioned the cost of one item on the trip, I recognized that as at least a little “finance related” content.
  • Sometimes posts were just lists of links to mainstream news media articles or other peoples blog posts on a particular topic.  While this type of aggregation is often valuable to some readers, I did not score these types of posts as high on the information axis when there was no new content added.

Also, please note that the scores are shown to one decimal place in the style graphs, but only one significant digit in the style table.  I determined the scores to one significant digit (i.e., an integer from 1 to 5).  I added the decimals to the graphs to provide some spread between the dots and give a better sense of how many blogs received similar scores.  Given the nature of the assessment, a simple scoring by integers from 1 to 5 is all that is really necessary or defensible.

If you have questions about how I approached certain types of posts or blogs or other details of my methods, please shoot me an email.  My intent is to be transparent without getting into all the gory details in this article.